HUNTSVILLE – A new employment centre for youth under age 30 may make its way to downtown Huntsville pending a council decision.
Huntsville council met while this newspaper was going to press on Sept. 18 to discuss a lease agreement with the District of Muskoka for space in the Huntsville Civic Centre to be used as an employment centre for youth seeking work.
The deal would mean about $565 per month in revenue for the town and additional resources for unemployed people in the municipality.
Cheryl Parlett, manager of programs for Ontario Works with the district, said Huntsville has seen the most dramatic increase in Ontario Works caseload in the region and the district’s King William Street office is no longer adequate in terms of space.
The civic centre office would be temporary, she said.
“When the economic conditions are really good, Huntsville has a lot of employment opportunities,” said Parlett. “When the economy isn’t so good, then those employment opportunities shrink in the Huntsville area and we see more people come onto assistance.”
The Ontario Works program provides both financial assistance and employment resources to those who find themselves temporarily out of work.
While unemployment can be cyclical in Huntsville because of the seasonality of much of the employment here, Parlett said, the loss of manufacturing jobs coupled with a weaker tourism economy also affects employment rates.
She said over the last five years Ontario Works numbers for the region have gradually increased. Between August 2011 and August 2012, she said, the caseload has increased by 16 per cent.
She said the King William office has about 350 to 400 clients who are working on employment plans and about 40 per cent comprise people under 30.
The temporary office would offer a wide range of services.
Parlett said staff would work closely with Ontario Works clients under the age of 30 at the office to identify clients’ skills, barriers to finding employment, and ways to overcome those barriers.
Services would include connecting clients with education, employment courses, mental health and addiction programs, medical or professional resources in the area, and training, among others.
The office would also offer certificate programs such as fall arrest, WHMIS and flagging so that when people apply for jobs, they can become more attractive to potential employers, said Parlett.
And she said the district’s program staff is finding more clients want to participate in these programs.
“They know they need to work toward self-sufficiency,” she said. “So we’re trying to offer as many programs as possible to meet the needs of our clients.”
If the lease is approved by town council, the temporary office could open Oct. 1.